"I literally felt torn in two pieces. I didn't want to leave one baby to go back to the hospital, but I couldn’t stay away from the baby still fighting in the NICU."
There are many things about the NICU that no one tells you. And when multiples are involved the unknowns double. From the moment my twins were born at 28 weeks and admitted to the NICU, my first thought in the morning and my last thought at night was when will they come home. But during the 55 days that my twins shared the NICU, it had never occurred to me, nor had I ever been told that they might not go home together.
But that is exactly what happened. One of my twins was ready to be released, and the other was not. It would take another ten days before they would be reunited again. Those days were the hardest part of the whole NICU experience. I literally felt torn in two pieces. I didn't want to leave one baby to go back to the hospital, but I couldn’t stay away from the baby still fighting in the NICU. Finding a balance was impossible, which led me to feel so guilty.
Dealing with multiple discharge dates for your NICU babies will be difficult, but here are a few things that could help.
It is Common
It is common that multiples will have differing NICU stays in terms of treatment and length. Understanding and preparing for this from the beginning helps.
Have a plan in place for childcare. Once a baby is released from the NICU, they are not allowed back as a visitor. Future hospital visits will have to be made alone. Make sure you have someone in mind that can watch your baby at home that is comfortable providing the level of care that a medically fragile baby could need.
Continue to Bond
You may feel that you are less bonded, or are losing your bond with your hospitalized baby because you are not spending as much time with them as before. But the parental bond is based in quality not quantity. When you are able, continue all those bonding activities like kangaroo care, reading, and talking to them. And if you can't make it to the hospital everyday, remember that bonding can still take place via technologies like FaceTime and Zoom.
Having one baby home from the hospital will likely cause a flood of emotions, from happiness to guilt. It is important to seek help and support from your friends, family, partner, and professionals during this time.